Violence Against Women Act: Now Faces Congressional Challenges

President Obama’s State of the Union speech ushered in improvements on behalf of women living within the U.S., displaying his determination to foster change in terms of gender equality.

However, wheels of change can’t turn without bipartisan efforts — efforts that have been repeatedly put in jeopardy by the GOP. Do they hate gender equality or the president more? Moral sense would dictate the latter.

During his State of the Union address, Obama said these words, as provided by the White House’s release of his speech:

“We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. I urge the House to do the same. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.”

Obama’s plea to an obstinate Congress is nothing new — and neither is the president’s fight to have all ground bases covered for women, from contraception to now possibly evening up the field in retail, which is said to have the second highest pay disparity between men and women.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to make pay disparity strictly transparent backed with logical reasoning as to why. It also does not penalize employees from sharing salary information amongst each other. This act compliments the already signed Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and according to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Senator Barbara Mikulski, would combat loopholes evident in the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Senate Republicans originally blocked the act — twice.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, is meant to provide funds to authorities at the local and state level for increased assistance for victims who report domestic abuse. Examples of improved provisions guaranteed by VAWA include transitional housing, stalker databases, and law enforcement training. Since 1994, the act has been re-instated twice — once in 2000 and again in 2005.

In an overwhelming majority, the Senate voted to re-implement the act by 78-22, with bipartisan efforts coming into play. While Obama urged Congress to send VAWA to his desk, the approval of House Republicans are said to show some opposition with the fact that the 2012 renewal of the act calls for protection for women across the spectrum of immigrants, Native Americans, and LGBT from sexual assault and domestic violence.

GOP poster boy, Senator Marco Rubio was one of the few who voted against the act. His reasons ultimately rested with his issues on the government meddling with funding that he believes ought to be handled by the state, and Native American tribal courts dealing with cases involving non-Native Americans.

To revolutionize women’s rights, the struggle for them needs to stop falling subject to political tug-of-war. The same rhetoric could be applied to a multitude of other issues currently being debated in Washington. The only topic that has been highlighted as agreeable to both parties by the media is immigration. If not only because the GOP hopes that by pandering to Latino bloc in particular, they can seize their votes come 2016. The female vote must not be as relevant to their interests, to say the very least, given their weak track record.